Sep 25, 2010

Posted by in Counterculture, The Naysayer | 23 Comments

The Problem with Pop Culture

I’m watching the “musical” performances at the MTV movie awards and don’t even know what to say. I’m not overly sensitive when it comes to the crudeness of the world. I’m not one of those Christians who gets pissy every time an F-bomb is dropped, but sometimes pop culture makes my skin crawl.

What disturbs me most is the women in pop culture. Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” video is basically porn. Rihanna’s song “Rude Boy” is so explicit as to be ridiculous.

Ke$ha’s song “Blah Blah Blah” sounds like something horny frat boys say about the notches on their belt. The list goes on; it gets longer every time I turn on the TV or radio.

Men in pop culture have been crude and degrading for a while now, but now it seems like there’s some kind of conspiracy among the women in pop culture to out-skank the guys. A strange approach to equality. As if to be successful, they have to adopt and embrace the perverted views men hold of them. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em?

The Blackbird Press supports responsible drinking.


What used to be considered oppressive and offensive toward women is now propagated by women themselves. As a result, men and women alike shovel the same filth into our brains. What’s most sickening is that I know all of those songs and sing them when they come on the radio.

We should hate how far we’ve fallen and how much we’ve lost regarding art, beauty, respect, common decency, morality, subtlety, and mystery. Will it end? I know the world doesn’t hold the same standards as Christians, and I don’t expect it to. But to ignore the problem seems inhuman. Maybe that is exactly what is happening: people are slowly shedding their humanity until they are nothing but a mere vapors of humans, increasingly animalistic in their hedonism. Will we wake up one day to a world devoid of humanity and filled with nothing but beasts?

Tia Murray

Tia is an unashamed idealist who finds pleasure in walking barefoot, messy hair, and the revolutionary life of Jesus. She sees the grace of God in the most unlikely places (and people), experiences God in brokenness, and shuns fear, practicality, and mediocrity in order to achieve the impossible.

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  1. Beasts or zombies, yes.

  2. I think the real problem is society and how it treats women. A woman is worthy if she looks good, never mind her character or what she’s accomplished. She’s talked about if she shows cleavage, she’s talked about if she doesn’t. Her purity (or lack of) is discussed, her weight is gauged.

  3. Daniel Rubio says:

    While I largely agree with the thrust of the article, I would contest a few points.

    1) I don’t know as its accurate to characterize men as ‘always skanks’ while labelling female sluttery a recent phenomenon. Whether it was Monroe, Bardotte, or [select modern pop star], female stars have a long tradition of trading on flesh. I think the general thrust of pop culture has been downward for a while now, but I don’t think either gender had that much of a head start in the race to the bottom

    2) Just so someone says: there is really nothing appealing about Lady Gaga, not even in an erotic sense.

  4. Justin Mulwee says:

    @brandi

    “I think the real problem is society and how it treats women.” I can agree in a sense, but whenever someone makes a statement like this it begs the question, “Who is society, anyway?” And I think part of Tia’s point is that it includes women, too. We are all responsible for our own actions, after all.

    Also, I don’t buy that it’s somehow shallow or oppressive to make note of a woman’s purity. Purity is a legitimate character trait. It’s related to chastity, which is traditionally one of the 7 capital virtues. Anyway I for one am not going to date someone who looks like (by the way she dresses and carries herself) that she’s throwing herself at every man within eye distance.

  5. This article really brings home one of major problems with secular university life. I just can’t turn a corner without some woman walking around wearing something that says she’s “open for business”. As much as I liked the Christian campus environment (insofar as we shared a common moral standard), the trade off for the lack of any standards of morality close to my own is the cost of my education.

    Oh well.

    John

  6. Justin Mulwee says:

    Mhm. It makes it harder to stay pure when we actually have to go out of our way NOT to stare at half-naked women. I don’t think we should make women wear burlap sacks. But I would like to know why there’s a hot girl with a low cut top on the back of my Cheerios box. Thanks for the show, but I just came for breakfast.

  7. Indeed, I can’t wait for Spring Break. I’m sure to be visually assaulted by not just women but by the spring break advertisements that will be up all around campus on flyers and in the newspapers.

    I also recently saw that Deja Vu advertises in the student newspaper here on campus. I know this isn’t a Christian college but I thought that the student newspaper that parents sometimes read when they visit with their college-bound seniors would have a little more tact in who can and cannot advertise in that particular media outlet. Ick.

    On the burlap sacks, I’m game. I’ll even wear one just to make everything “fair”. :D

  8. I apologize for the rant-like nature of this response, and it is not so much in response to the original post, but to the conversation happening in the comments. Modesty/purity is a hot-button issue for me.

    Why is the burden of purity always on the woman? I dress rather frequently in what may be seen as immodest clothing, but I do so because it’s 1. Fashionable, and I like being fashionable, and 2. I look good, and I like going out knowing that I look good and can take pride in my appearance. I’m never actively thinking “Oh yeah, the boys are going to be all over me in this,” which seems to be the implication of so much modesty teaching. We divide girls into two categories of “pure” and “slut,” leaving out a vast majority of sexuality in the range between those two extremes. This is not to mention the obsession (of the modern church, and, I would contend, popular culture as a whole, represented by media, books, and politics and reactions to Lady Gaga) with whether or not a girl remains a virgin and “pure,” when the definition for what a virgin is isn’t even clearly defined, and completely leaves out homosexuals, AND characterizes women on the basis of this alone.

    Putting the burden for purity on the female also gives men an excuse to look (“I mean, she was right there!”), and, if taken far enough, turns into the “she was asking for it” excuse. Take a look at recent controversies over the female sports reporter (Ines Sainz) who was sexually harassed when she was in the Philadelphia Eagles locker room, doing her job. Fox News analyst Brian Baldinger responds: “If you come into the NFL dressed the way that she is dressed you are just asking for it,” which leaves out and writes off entirely the responsibility of the players to act like the professionals and the MEN they are supposed to be.

    It’s a narrative we find again and again in pop culture, and particularly in the church: almost any time a rape or incidence of sexual assault, or even verbal harassment (as in the case of Sainz), occurs, you’ll see pundits, speakers, etc, pipe up about things “women can do to protect themselves,” missives which often include not dressing “immodestly,” not going out drinking, not doing things that are perfectly normal in the lives of millions of women. Almost nothing is said about what men can do to respect the women around them. It’s a narrative that gets repeated over and over again at all levels: Indeed, when campus security at my college would send out safety warnings, they were frequently targeted at women on the campus about “things you can do to protect yourself from rape,” and often included things that are perfectly normal for a college student to be doing.

    The thing that bothers me about this same narrative I’m seeing reflected in the conversation here is that it paints men as somehow helpless victims of a woman’s sexuality. As I started out with, there’s a dichotomy between pure and slut, with no middle ground, which has no wiggle room for a woman who wants to own her sexuality and be proud of who she is and confident in herself. And men, when presented with a woman who is comfortable with herself, enough to show off a little cleavage, apparently suddenly become melted pools of Id?

    Modesty standards create an untenable burden for women, and let men off the hook.

    And I almost hate to defend Lady Gaga, because I don’t think she’s nearly as smart as all her little monsters are, but if you’re looking at the Alejandro video and all you see is the bedroom scenes, you’re missing a lot.

    There will always be stupidity in pop culture (Ke$ha). There will always be overt sexuality (Katy Perry and Rihanna) as long as women are taught that this is what defines them and gives them a selling point.

    And Justin, I don’t buy your argument that chastity is only one small part of the person. Ideally, that would be the case, but for a woman, that’s not the narrative we are told from day one. I mean, heck, when I started college, my aunts and uncles told me not “Get a good education and do well,” but “I hope you meet your husband like I did!” You say: “Anyway I for one am not going to date someone who looks like (by the way she dresses and carries herself) that she’s throwing herself at every man within eye distance.” Would you be her friend, though? Would you want to start a conversation with her, maybe spend some time to get to know her? By refusing someone based on that particular standard of modesty, you *are* turning purity into something that defines her as a person. Maybe you get to know her and discover that she really is spending her time throwing herself at every man, and defines her life by that excess – then, yeah, by all means don’t date her. But don’t turn the process on its head. Let her be a person first and foremost, not just walking cleavage.

    Keep in mind, Jesus spent a lot of time talking to whores – those “immodest” women tempting others.

  9. Justin Mulwee says:

    Alright, slow down.
    “I don’t buy your argument that chastity is only one small part of the person.”

    First, that is not what I said; I said chastity was virtuous. Nor did anyone say that purity is solely the responsibility of women. Before we continue, let’s agree not to put words in each others’ mouths.

    Second, the rest of your comment (correct me if I’m wrong) seems to argue for what you”do not buy”–that women should not be defined by that alone. Anyway, I agree. To answer your question, yes, I would befriend a woman who dressed in a revealing way. Or rather, I have. The standards for who I would befriend and who I would date are quite different.

    I also agree that men are responsible for their own actions. If a woman walks up to me stark naked, I should still treat her with the utmost respect as a human being. But I would find it more difficult to do so.

    With respect, you can’t know what it’s like to be a guy. Just know that it is much easier for us to keep our minds pure when a woman is dressed modestly. Even for those of us who are really trying. It can still be done otherwise, but it’s much harder. We’re visual creatures.

    So yes, it’s our responsibility. But if men ask you to dress modestly, try not to think of it as someone trying to oppress you. By dressing modestly you can be courteous and give us a hand in avoiding sin. I should hope that is a higher priority than fashion.

    Like I said, I’m not a burlap sack advocate. And I don’t especially want to get into a discussion about some kind of objective standard of modesty. Just think about the general principle of the thing; you can make it easier or more difficult for men to avoid sin by the way you dress.

    Lastly, meaning no offense toward you: I get the impression that you’ve experienced some (probably justified) frustration in these kinds of discussions before, and now you are projecting that onto this thread. You’re arguing against some things no one here is arguing for.

  10. Just to be clear, I was only joking about the burlap sacks. I hope that came through my posting. Maybe it didn’t.

    I know Justin already said it but he can only speak for himself. I don’t pretend for a moment that I’m somehow let off the hook because women choose to dress immodestly. If I really felt like I was off the hook, I probably would have had a different response than the one I posted. In fact, part of my evening prayer rule includes repentance. I don’t stand before God saying “so and so made me look at her so it’s not my fault, God.” I accept full responsibility for my sins if I allow my mind to wander where it has no business being.

    John

  11. I agree that men in general often deflect responsibility onto women for their lust, which they make no attempt to restrain. However, there are those of us who genuinely desire to have a chaste heart, and immodesty really is an assault on our senses. Men can’t just turn it off like a switch. You can hardly blame a hungry man for salivating if you force him to walk through a king’s banquet and not touch the food. A man would have to be a saint to exercise such control. Granted, he would be guilty of sin if he took the king’s food, but he cannot be blamed for being tempted. Being tempted is not a sin. Christ was tempted.

    Paul warns believers not to exercise even their freedom to eat certain foods if it causes their brothers to stumble. How much more should Christian women (and men) sacrifice their desire to be “fashionable” for the sake of the sexual purity of their fellow believers?

    Again, so that I will not be misunderstood, I think that any man who acts upon his lust bears the full responsibility for that act. However, temptation itself is both impossible to avoid and (unless a man deliberately chooses to continue to think about the object of his temptation) is not a sin. And it is quite clear from Scripture that tempting another person to sin (whether deliberately or out of reckless disregard for their spiritual well-being) is itself a sin.

  12. Daniel Rubio says:

    I think we have a vague term at play here. Also, I think Dianna’s has straw-manned the main point, so I will endeavor to present what is in principle the argument she dislikes but with stronger phrasing.

    1) Lust. Highly ambiguous term. Is it lustful for a man’s eyes to pass over a woman’s body and his brain to register her sex appeal? Is it only lust if he takes a second glance? What if there is no second glance but a second thought? I’m not proposing a definition per se, but pointing out that the term is problematic, and that the line between seeing someone and lusting after them is very fuzzy.

    So, having established that the line between “seeing” and “lusting” is very poorly-defined, one might also point out that there is a high chance of the mental state “it seems to me that I am seeing a sexy woman” causing at least some kind of borderline lust. It is also fairly safe to say that seeing a woman can trigger that mental state regardless of her dress, but that women showing more skin or wearing tighter clothing are more likely to trigger that mental state, which has a higher chance of producing lust than many other mental states.

    So, while it may be improper to say that the immodestly dressed woman caused someone to lust in the deterministic sense, she is undeniably creating a situation in which the likelihood of someone lusting is significantly increased.

    Now, the woman in question may argue that her desire to appear fashionable or feel good about her appearance and dressing modestly are mutually exclusive, and that those desires trump the desire (or duty, depending on how serious we take St. Paul) to minimize her own contributions to the conditions under which others sin. That however seems to be a different argument than the one presented (namely, that women ought to dress as they please and any lust is solely the business of the men to deal with).

  13. I understand where you are coming from, Dianna, and as much as I hate to break “girl code,” I have to say I’m with the guys on this one. I do not see any of them saying “it’s all your fault, so there” as an excuse to keep objectifying women, but rather wishing to avoid sin and treat women with as much respect as possible. You say that dressing somewhat immodestly is generally a woman’s attempt to “own her sexuality,” which may sometimes be true. However, I believe much more often it symbolizes a deep insecurity in which a woman feels she has to show whatever amount of cleavage she can get away with in order to feel noticed, valuable, or “fashionable.” An insecure person feels the need to draw the eye of everyone passing, not a person who is truly confident in who they are. Modesty standards should not be viewed as an “untenable burden” for women, but rather as an opportunity to find their identity less in their bodies and more in their character and what they have to say.

    I am a feminist and am in no way arguing that women have not been oppressed. But I stand by my original point: that women who by their sexuality scream “Equality!” are actually dragging themselves deeper into bondage and inequality, where they adopt the twisted, hyper-sexualized views men have of them and call it a day.

    PS: In response to Dan’s point a while back, yes, Lady Gaga sucks. High five.

  14. Actually, underneath all her glitz and glamour and craziness, Lady Gaga has a beautiful voice :)

  15. On a serious note, I’d just like to caution people not to condemn immodesty to the point of discounting physical beauty. I think sometimes the church focuses too much on the idea that ALL of a woman’s beauty comes from the inside. It is of course true that inner beauty is far more important than outer loveliness. But don’t forget: God created the female body to be gorgeous, and He did so for His glory. I’m not sure how to explain it exactly, but there’s a fine line between immodesty and a woman simply dressing to radiate her God-given physical beauty.

    For example, think of a strapless wedding dress. Some people say it’s immodest to show bare shoulders, but a bride in a beautiful strapless gown normally doesn’t look slutty; she just looks exquisite. And I would argue that a woman so attired brings glory to her Creator by reflecting His beauty.

    So yes, ladies, don’t dress to cause men to stumble… but don’t be ashamed of your beautiful body!

  16. Daniel Rubio says:

    To piggy-back onto Lauren’s comment:

    Modesty is usually contextual. What’s appropriately modest at a beach differs from a shopping mall which differs from a formal event like a wedding or banquet, which differs altogether from a context like sport or ballet.

    As has been repeated often; what is not called for here is a Burlap sack. What is called for is true taste and an elegance that enlightens, not a tawdry display.

  17. “Lastly, meaning no offense toward you: I get the impression that you’ve experienced some (probably justified) frustration in these kinds of discussions before, and now you are projecting that onto this thread. You’re arguing against some things no one here is arguing for.”

    This is certainly true, and for that I apologize.

    Mainly my problem is the damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If a woman dresses super modestly, especially in the entertainment industry, she’s seen as prudish and gets categorized as such. If she crosses an imaginary line, though, suddenly she’s “hyper-sexualized.” And I somewhat agree with the OP that, in attempting to have equality, women have turned themselves back into objects. But, as a woman in real life who has been told that her outfits are immodest because they have spaghetti straps, or a v-neck…at that point, the responsibility lies with the man to remember that the person he is looking at is, indeed, a person, and not turn them into an object. I don’t view it as my responsibility any more to cater to the quite varied standards of modesty that all the different men I encounter in my day to day life might have. Have I changed the way I dress here in Japan because the culture has slightly different standards of modesty than the US? Yes, I can and do adapt when needed. But, on the whole, the demand for a woman to make sure a man isn’t tempted is, indeed, a burden, and one I’m tired of lifting.

    So, sorry for the overreaction. The discussion about women’s sexuality is one that is very hard to have, and I’m frustrated with the Church in general’s ways of looking at it, which most often include rules about modesty and behavior without any question about what men need to do to reign themselves in.

  18. Justin Mulwee says:

    I agree with Lauren’s comment. Women are beautiful and looking at them makes me happy and if you ask me that’s pretty fantastic.

    As for the entertainment industry–I think that celebrity gossip tools who call a woman “prudish” for dressing conservatively are not people we should pay any attention to. As a Christian I expect people on the outside to make fun of me for any number of reasons. Shrug.

    I think humility will go a long way in solving this issue. Men say “she asked for it, it’s not my fault. there’s nothing wrong with me.” Women say, “it’s YOUR lust problem, I’m independent, so I should have the right to wear whatever I want!” Pride, pride, pride.

    Men need the humility to admit full responsibility but gently ask women for a little help (that is, asking them to dress in a reasonably modest way, and no I won’t offer a definition).

    Women need the humility to understand that struggle and to want to help instead of merely whining about their own rights.

  19. For a guy to say “She asked for it, it’s not my fault” is pathetic. It is a refusal to accept responsibility for how he chose to respond to a particular situation.

    But at the same time, I do think that there is a distinction between “I want to look beautiful” and “I want every man I see to think that I am beautiful”. It’s a difference between a woman affirming herself and a woman who requires constant affirmation from others.

  20. Hey Justin,

    Please, write another fantastic article so I can read and engage in more interesting and thoughtful conversation. Love what you do here, thanks. If not you, then make someone else do it.

  21. Cory Miller says:

    I’m totally stoked to get married.

    Just thought I’d throw that in there.

  22. Reed Wilson says:

    I think the problem is that people are self righteous, people think that because we have label that we are better then someone under a different label. Now, I am Christian, but I am a humble one, I don’t talk myself up and say how great Christians are, because I know that there are a lot of us who are just horrible people. I believe that when the time comes, God is not going to look for all the Christians, he is going to look for the people who did the right things when it mattered. He isn’t going to look for the people who sat around and complained about the Muslims, Gays, and Liberals. God loves all his children, ALL his children, and so should we. But I digress, let me just say that I am a “frat boy” and I don’t have notches on my belt, all my life I have made an emphasis on respect towards women, so I find it offensive and careless that you would make a generalization like that, because some of us are good people. You should get out there and find out, learn more about the world around you and know that perspective is the only difference between every single person on earth, we all see the same thing in different ways, and it is why we kill each other of what to call our God. That was the entire crusades right there.

  23. Alright! So I know this stuff is like 3years old, but I came across this page when I typed pop culture in Google. My first aim was to prepare for my exam concerning the topic! I was so amazed by what Tia wrote that I stopped a bit to really think about it. You put what I had in mind into words Tia! Rihanna, Lady gaga, and the latest crap Selena gomez, the wizard’s little girl, produced as ” MUSIC” is terrifying! and the worst problme like you said is that we listen to that, and it goes on and on in our heads like a broken record! I feel so glad when I turn on the TV and I see something that’s trying to send a message! like a rapper who wants his audience to see the pain through his lyrics, not the MINAJ crap! Why do Women do that to themselves? I mean we are equal creatures to men! and you don’t see a man all naked to draw fame!!!! I read all the above comments and I agree with the guys who said that a girl should understand men’s instinct! it’s a scientific fact! and a girl who knows her value, should not be afraid to cover herself because that person who wants you when you’re naked doesn’t worth it anyways. A guy, who will wanna spend the rest of his life with you will notice you even when you are wearing all your damn closet!!! Thank you Tia for what you wrote!:)

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